Top-seeded 157 lber Peyton Robb (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
2023 Big Ten Conference Preview
88 total allocations/88 in 2022
Where: Ann Arbor, Michigan (University of Michigan)
How to Watch: Big Ten Network and B1G+
It's time to look at the toughest conference tournament of them all, the Big Ten. Some refer to this event as a "mini-national tournament" and with good reason. With 88 automatic qualifying slots available, almost 30% of the NCAA Tournament is comprised of Big Ten wrestlers. After at-large berths, that figure probably rises above that 30% threshold.
Despite winning nine of the last 11 NCAA titles, Penn State is seeking its first Big Ten championship since 2019. Four of the ten top seeds at the 2023 Big Ten Championship hail from Penn State. Just going by seeds, the Nittany Lions are a significant favorite this weekend. Of course, that won't discourage rival Iowa from attempting to spoil a Penn State party. The Hawkeyes have a strong starting ten that features two number-one seeds, including two-time Hodge Trophy winner Spencer Lee. Fast on the Hawks' heels are their neighbors to the west, Nebraska. The Cornhuskers have four wrestlers seeded in the top-two and seem built for big tournament action.
In addition to the team race, there are plenty of individuals looking to achieve significant milestones. Our Big Ten correspondent Lauren Muthler did an excellent job at outlining those types of situations to watch this weekend.
For those that have never attended the Big Ten's, it's a bucket list tournament for wrestling die-hards. Seven of the top #1 ranked wrestlers in the country will take the mat. There will likely be previews of many NCAA semifinals and likely even a few finals in Ann Arbor. There's the possibility of a 2022 NCAA finals rematch…in the 197 lb semis. Basically, most of the tournament is like Friday at the NCAA Tournament.
The rest of the country and the other six conference tournaments deserve your attention, but don't miss anything from the Big Ten. Charge your extra devices and set up your extra screens!
Below is our weight-by-weight preview of the action, along with predictions for top-four finishers at all ten weights and a team race projection. Wrestlers bolded are the ones we have pegged to receive automatic qualifying bids at their respective weight classes.
1. Spencer Lee (IOWA)
2. Liam Cronin (NEB)
3. Matt Ramos (PUR)
4. Eric Barnett (WIS)
5. Patrick McKee (MINN)
6. Michael DeAugustino (NU)
7. Malik Heinselman (OSU) Editor's Note: Malik Heinselman has been scratched from the tournament. Andre Gonzales will replace him.
8. Braxton Brown (MD)
9. Dean Peterson (RU)
10. Jack Medley (MICH)
11. Gary Steen (PSU)
12. Tristan Lujan (MSU)
13. Jacob Moran (IND)
14. Maximo Renteria (ILL)
First Round Match to Watch: #8 Braxton Brown (Maryland) vs. #9 Dean Peterson
Projected Semifinals: #1 Spencer Lee (Iowa) vs. #4 Eric Barnett; #2 Liam Cronin (Nebraska) vs. #3 Matt Ramos (Purdue)
Before aiming for his fourth NCAA title, Spencer Lee is seeking his third Big Ten Championship. Lee has rolled through the competition this season with eight falls in 14 matches and bonus points in all but one of those contests. There's a chance he'll get to meet the only wrestler who has kept him to a regular decision (Patrick McKee) in the semifinals.
After Lee, this weight class had been rather chaotic this season. Despite the presence of three All-Americans (Eric Barnett/McKee/Michael DeAugustino), Liam Cronin and Matt Ramos have emerged as the next tier of challengers. Cronin has decisively beaten all three of the returning AA's, while Ramos has beaten Barnett and McKee. A Cronin/Ramos match should be one of the most anticipated of the tournament, as neither has faced the other this season. Ramos famously got up big on Lee before getting pinned, so you'd have to assume he's itching for a rematch.
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